Characteristics, socioeconomic benefits and household livelihoods of beef buffalo and beef cattle farming in Northeast Thailand
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Since the Thai economy experiences rapid growth, agricultural systems, i.e. crop-livestock systems, are changing rapidly. On account of these changes, buffalo and cattle production has to be re-examined in terms of performance characteristics and roles of livestock for farm households in order to initiate suitable development programmes. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the present characteristics of beef buffalo and beef cattle farms in Northeast Thailand. Using a semi-structured questionnaire, 121 randomly selected beef buffalo and beef cattle farms were interviewed in Nakhon Ratchasima province between October 2007 and May 2008. Both buffaloes and cattle were mostly integrated in mixed crop-livestock systems with medium to large farm sizes (7.9 ha), whereof less than half of the area was used for livestock. Family members were mainly responsible for the different activities of livestock farming and salaried labourers were only found on large-scale farms. The dominant roles of livestock were income generation to build up wealth or savings, the coverage of expected and unexpected expenses and earning of regular and additional income. Another important issue was the improvement of the social status, which increased with herd size. In order to improve farmers' livelihoods and develop sustainable fanning systems in Northeast Thailand the changing economic circumstances of cattle and especially buffalo production should receive more attention of researchers, governmental institutions and stakeholders.